How murderers become ‘political prisoners’ - opinion

There was no shortage of whitewashing terror as six Palestinian terrorists escaped from the high-security Gilboa prison.

 A RALLY IN Nazareth over the weekend in support of the six Palestinian convicts who had escaped from prison. (photo credit: REUTERS/AMMAR AWAD)
A RALLY IN Nazareth over the weekend in support of the six Palestinian convicts who had escaped from prison.
(photo credit: REUTERS/AMMAR AWAD)
Israel was shaken last week with the news of six Palestinian terrorists escaping from the high-security Gilboa prison. But potentially even more disturbing was the concerted effort by activists – and even the press in some cases – to whitewash their crimes and present the terrorists as heroes against oppression. The reality couldn’t be further from the truth. The inability of some to differentiate between actual political prisoners, the likes of whom suffer every day in places like Evin prison in Iran, and convicted Palestinian terrorists serving a sentence for actions they took, is inexcusable.
Immediately after news broke of the Palestinian terrorists’ miraculous escape, by digging a tunnel under the prison, Palestinian social media began celebrating. In addition, there were widespread celebrations in the streets of Gaza and the West Bank over the Israeli security failure. In one case, the Palestinian village of Beita celebrated by burning an effigy of a Jew and uploading the video to social media. Of course as expected, Fatah, Islamic Jihad and Hamas celebrated the escape of the prisoners as well. But even more disturbing were the activists, organizations and public figures, in some cases even journalists, who defended the terrorists and their activities. 
Jewish Voice for Peace, known for their extremist viewpoints, had previously raised eyebrows for endorsing the intifada in their promotional materials. But in this instance they raised (or should I say lowered) the bar by comparing the Palestinian terrorists who escaped to Holocaust victims who attempted to dig their way out of concentration camps. In a similarly repulsive statement, Director of Physicians for Human Rights Israel, Ghada Majadli, explicitly endorsed the violence of the six terrorists, calling it “freedom fighting” and calling them “political prisoners.”
In the academic realm, there was no shortage of whitewashing terror: political analyst Yousef Munayyer tweeted in praise of the escape repeatedly, and even retweeted Harvard PhD candidate Randa Wahbe, who praised the terrorists as “heroes” and “political prisoners.” Noura Erekat, a professor at Rutgers University, also praised the terrorists and called for all Palestinian prisoners to be released.
 Gilboa Prison. What went wrong? (credit: FLASH90) Gilboa Prison. What went wrong? (credit: FLASH90)
For some journalists, the rhetoric wasn’t much different. Al Jazeera journalist Ali Younes joined Haaretz columnist Gideon Levy in calling convicted murderers “freedom fighters.” Activist and newly turned correspondent for The Nation, Mohammed El Kurd, who is already known for his extremist rhetoric and inaccurate reporting on social media, also called the terrorists “political prisoners” and called for “all prisons to be abolished.”
What each of these individuals seems to have forgotten, or simply doesn’t care about, is that five of these six terrorists had already received a trial and convictions for violence and terrorist activity. None of these men are innocent actors being persecuted by the Israeli government. In multiple cases, such as that of Zakaria Zubeidi and Eham Kamamji, they were directly responsible for the murder of Israeli civilians. The actions of these men harms Israelis and damages the prospects for peace for Palestinians as well, which makes it especially disturbing that so many activists are not embracing outspoken critics of Israel, but actual violent terrorists. Embracing terrorism hasn’t worked for Palestinians for over 70 years. What’s it going to take for them to realize it won’t work now either?
It’s hard to imagine a scenario in which the public and notable public figures would unabashedly endorse terrorism and support a prison breakout of terrorists who murdered Americans, for example. Yet in this case, far too many people are turning the terrorists into the victims. Going to prison for violent crimes you commit is not oppression. The attempts by academics, organizations and journalists to try to turn murderers into “political prisoners” should be widely condemned.
The writer is the CEO of Social Lite Creative LLC and a research fellow at the Tel Aviv Institute.